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Russias "Elections": On The Importance Of Listening

January 4, 2012

By Dmitriy Butrin 

United Russia has lost the right to be regarded as the country’s main political force. Its claims to express the will of the majority are untenable.  What is going on is not a temporary setback or an accidental loss that can be made up for later. It is the corollary of attempts to create a political system that they call “manageable” or “sovereign” democracy. The result of even this “election” shows that the course proposed to “unite” Russia does not sit well with most Russiansit was clearly not supported by a majority of votes. 



[Dmitriy Butrin is Chief Editor of the Economics Section, Kommersant Daily Columnist for InLiberty.ru. This article has already appeared on www.inliberty.ru and www.reason.com]  

On December 4 Russians held an “election.” I didn’t go to the polls, because active participation in what the Central Electoral Commission called “elections to the State Duma” looked like a waste of time. Until that day it was an axiom that the ruling United Russia party garnered 45 to 50 million votes from the 108 million enfranchised citizens, remarkably in some districts more than the number who voted.

On December 4 my compatriots who decided to vote knew better than I, the pollsters, or the authorities and cast so many votes against the United Russia party that their vote sank to just under fifty percent. So I could not help but go on December 5 to the first of the demonstrations protesting unfair elections. The general consensus was that we had overestimated both the real level of support for United Russia at previous elections and the capabilities of the government to engage in electoral fraud. It has become clear that the ruling party is not ruling because of their electoral popularity.

United Russia has lost the right to be regarded as the country’s main political force. Its claims to express the will of the majority are untenable. What is going on is not a temporary setback or an accidental loss that can be made up for later. It is the corollary of attempts to create a political system that they call “manageable” or “sovereign” democracy. The result of even this “election” shows that the course proposed to “unite” Russia does not sit well with most Russians — it was clearly not supported by a majority of votes.

Any references to an expressed will of the voters in domestic and international issues are no more tenable. The authorities’ opinion is only one of the many opinions competing in Russia; there are no reasons to consider it “Russia’s opinion”. The monopoly on power is in the past.

Let’s turn to the technical details of the “election.” The available data testify to massive violations that distorted the voters’ choices. The results of any random collation of the final protocols and the protocols of territorial electoral commissions show that United Russia’s figures have been inflated by millions of votes. At the very least, there are no reasons to believe that United Russia gathered more than 35 percent of the vote of those voters who really exist and personally voted for the party and its candidates. Moreover, the results of voting in several regions are so fundamentally at variance from those in the rest of Russia, that nothing short of criminal malfeasance could explain it. There is no other explanation for what is happening in those regions. Third, the violations reported by observers in Moscow suggest that the election has been falsified, not only in the hinterlands, but in Russia’s most populous regions. Those violations directly influenced the distribution of votes in Duma.

Accordingly, the results announced by the Central Electoral Commission are subject to criminal investigation. Analysis suggests that around 15 million votes counted for the ruling party were the result of cheating, fabrication and a series of criminal offences organised by the current Russian authorities, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Medvedev at the helm. The refusal even to discuss the scale of fraud at the election, or the use of their administrative powers, or pressure on the voters, or the unfairness of the vote tabulation constitute indirect admission of the authorities’ leading role in what is happening. In this situation United Russia, the beneficiary of the fraud, cannot claim to have a majority of votes in the State Duma. And since that claim has already been voiced, we question the legitimacy of the next State Duma. A significant part of the electorate will not consider legal any of the Duma’s decisions no matter how many Duma members voted for it. No “coalition government” is possible: any Russian government approved by this “legislature” will lack public support. Such a government would be selected by an illegitimate parliament elected by, and representing, an unknown percentage of the population.

The presidential “election” will be held next spring. It is likely to be a rerun of the Duma elections – of 2011, 2007 and, to some extent, of 2003. However, that election will take place in a very different situation; voters will be more aware that the whole thing is fixed and that the ruling party cannot win without violations on a massive scale.

The only obvious way to keep the “non-systemic” opposition from growing is to lift the limitations on political activities and effectively rewind to the 1999 status quo. The rulers are losing their monopoly on power. If the 2012 presidential election is held according to the 2011 Duma election script, more radical and less evolutionary strategies of change will become much more acceptable to the public. Now we are thousands and tens of thousands, but it may be too late for the authorities when we are hundreds of thousands.

Cancellation of the 2011 “Duma election” results and a new election without violations could avoid major problems for the entire country during the planned presidential elections and beyond.

As a classical liberal, it does not sit well with me that at parliamentary elections I have to choose between four types of kleptomaniacs and three types of socialists. Certainly, I don’t like to demonstrate my commitment to democratic values among the near-lunatic left and those who favour violent revolutions for sacred ends. Classical liberal and moderate parties were systematically excluded from the electoral processes, leaving the choice between the kleptocrats in power and a crazy official opposition. One result of a proper electoral policy will be to reopen the political competition to sane people. That will definitely be to the benefit of the people of Russia, as well as her neighbours.



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